Project Type

URC Presentation



College or School


Class Year




Faculty Research Advisor

John Tsavalas


For my presentation, I am studying the use of ribosomes in the synthesis of polymers. Ribosomes are organelles that exist within living cells. Their purpose is to read messenger RNA and then form proteins based on the instructions encoded within the RNA. This is how our body builds itself. Recently, scientists have been experimenting with ribosomes, trying to make them build other polymers besides proteins. In order to do that, the ribosomes have to be altered to accept building materials other than standard α-amino acids. Researchers have already developed two methods for engineering such ribosome, and both have met with some success. This could revolutionize the way we produced polymers such as nylon and plastics. Ribosomes are extremely efficient and can rapidly produce proteins; they’re capable of joining amino acids together at a rate of 200 per minute. Ribosomes are also very accurate and highly selective, which eliminates the possibility of byproducts. The goal of this project is to inform people about the potential of engineered ribosomes and how they could supplement our current methods of polymer synthesis due to their speed and reliability. My research provided me with a surprising amount of new knowledge, such as what ribosomes were made of and how they made proteins, how a single mutation can kill a ribosome but multiple mutations can keep it alive, and why altering ribosomes to accept new monomers is so difficult.